Military Embedded Systems

Avionics obsolescence management concept from Northrop Grumman to be used on Air Force B-2


February 11, 2014

John McHale

Editorial Director

Military Embedded Systems

PALMDALE, CA. Northrop Grumman engineers are demonstrating for the U.S. Air Force a new method they developed for battling obsolescence in avionics on the B-2 stealth bomber. Company engineers are developing a functional replacement for a B-2 avionics box dubbed the Audio Central Distribution Unit (ACDU).

To fight obsolescence company designers created a concept they call the Common Processor that produces same-size, functional replacements for many of the B-2's more critical avionics units more cost effectively and in less time than it would to do custom replacements for those units, says Dave Mazur, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems vice president and B-2 program manager. The ACDU will be the first B-2 avionics Line Replaceable Unit (LRU) made with this approach, he adds.

A large number of LRUs on the jet face or will soon face obsolescence, Mazur says. In some cases, a vendor that produced an LRU is out of business or can no longer make the unit. In other situations, the equipment necessary to test an LRU is no longer available.

The Common Processor takes advantage of functional similarities among avionics LRUs on the B-2 today. These common hardware elements will be utilized in unique combinations to create a variety of LRUs. The Common Processor will also enable B-2 maintainers to use one common set of test equipment for all of the replacement LRUs, he says. "This approach will reduce avionics sustainment costs and help improve aircraft availability."

Northrop Grumman engineers and Air Force personnel have identified 21 different current LRUs on the B-2 that may be replaced using the Common Processor, Mazur adds. Each LRU has multiple copies on the jet.

The 43-month contract is worth $43.5 million. Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor on the B-2.


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